"The Empty Man #2" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by Jesus Hervas
Colored by Niko Guardia
Lettered by Ed Dukeshire
2018, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on December 12th, 2018
The Empty Man disease is spreading like a horrifying wildfire throughout the world. It’s hitting the Kerrys close to home, as their mother is infected and starting to become violent. When a mysterious stranger shows up with promises of a cure and threats of government intervention, things could get a lot bloodier.
I tend to judge comics based on how they make me feel. The Empty Man gets under my skin in the best possible way. The opening sequence is a great example of this. Writer Cullen Bunn sets up what seems like a normal day at the gym for some guy while the TV above him plays a worrisome news story. You slowly start to see how the two are linked and the feeling of dread goes from zero to eleven. You are hoping and praying that they’re not connected, but you can’t look away. This is what true horror comics are all about.
This is just one aspect of The Empty Man. That unmistakable feeling of foreboding permeates through every single page. You get the wider view with segments like the aforementioned gym scene and then they get more personal with the close-up on the Kerrys. This provides a solid balance.
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A chunk of the terror comes through in how normal artist Jesus Hervas makes everything appear. Yes, people are mutilating themselves and others, but it’s presented like this is something that happens every day. This is the new normal and that is so very frightening. Some people are still grappling with this shift in reality, but others have embraced it wholeheartedly.
For example, Melissa Kerry is clearly diseased. She’s standing, battered and bruised, in a room literally covered in blood. Her husband, Andrew, is rationalizing all of this, trying to think of ways to keep her safe and out of the public eye. It’s better to have her beating herself up at home than disappearing as part of some government quarantine.
There’s a look of shock in his face when he sees what his wife has done to herself that quickly turns to determination and fear as he starts to put the pieces together. Colorist Niko Guardia makes the blood pop, like it was splattered all over the page. This creates a messy effect, to the point where you’ll have to check your fingers after reading The Empty Man to make sure you didn’t get any red on you.
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Adding a final chilling aspect to this is the weakened words of Melissa. She’s in pain and drenched in blood, yet manages to explain to her husband that the Empty Man made her do it. That is presented in such a haunting manner from letterer Ed Dukeshire. It comes up in this smaller font with a wobbly word balloon, like it could just float away at any moment.
The Empty Man is one most disturbing comics on the stands today, like a more horrifying version of Outbreak. It presents a creepy world that’s been ravaged by a strange disease that begets more and more violence and bloodshed. It’s showing no sign of stopping and it’s only going to get worse.